Killing Gaddafi Doesn’t Make President Obama’s Actions In Libya Legal Or Justified
Gaddafi is dead, but it was still wrong for the United States to get involved in Libya.
Not surprisingly, the death of Muammar Gaddafi has led many in the media to claim that this somehow proves that the President was right when he made the decision, without consulting or seeking approval from Congress, to commit American military forces to Libya. Markos Moutsalis even when so far as to say this:
Tim Carney comments over at the Examiner:
The implication: If you objected to the President for illegally entering a war where vital U.S. interests were not at stake, you were wrong, because we killed Gadafhi. More briefly: Might makes right.
The liberal Center for American Progress made the same unliberal argument in August when Gadhafi lost control of the country, asking on twitter: “Does John Boehner still believe U.S. military operations in Libya are illegal?”
This disregard for the rule of law is particularly audacious because Kos and CAP helped bring Democrats to power by attacking Bush for his cowboy foreign policy.
Aside from the legal question, there’s the nation-building question. Kos and CAP have effectively shouted “Mission Accomplished” and flippantly dismiss the notion that a power vaccuum in Libya might help the terrorists or mire the U.S. in an ugly long-term engagement.
This issue came up back in August when the Gaddafi regime’s control of Tripoli collapsed and many people claimed that this was proof that the President was right to get involved in Libya. At that time, I said:
I’ve made my own opposition to intervention in Libya clear from the start. For one thing, it became eminently clear early on in the mission that the threat of a humanitarian crisis that was used to justify the United Nations Security Council Resolutions that justified the action was more of an excuse than anything else, and that the rebels themselves were likely greatly exaggerating the “abuses” of the Libyan regime in order to gain Western sympathy. More importantly, though, I opposed the action because of the overwhelming reasons to be against it. There was, to put it bluntly, no reason to involve ourselves in yet another military action at a time when our troops are already stretched to the limit thanks to two wars we’ve been fighting for ten years, one of which doesn’t seem to have any geographic limitation at all. There was no reason to spend money we don’t have to come to the rescue of allies who aren’t willing to make the investments necessary to protect our own interests. Most importantly, there was no reason to get involved in a conflict in which our own national interests were not implicated in any manner whatsoever.
Finally, there are the serious legal and Constitutional questions raised by the President’s course of action in Libya. Instead of seeking approval from Congress for the Libya mission, President Obama relied solely on a series of United Nations Security Council Resolutions that authorized force for the sole purpose of protecting civilians. That justification quickly went out the window, though, and it became rather obvious from the start that the United States and NATO were primarily concerned with aiding the rebels, despite their questionable ties, not protecting civilians. While the Administration did notify Congress of the action as required by the War Powers Act, they failed to seek Congressional approval for the same and showed no inclination that they thought they needed to notwithstanding previous statements by the President and the Vice-President to the contrary. When the 60 day WPA time limit approached, they made the absurd argument that the United States was not engaged in “hostilities.” Of course, Congress is partly responsible here as well considering that they failed to take any steps to challenge the President’s clear violation of the law. Nonetheless, the President fought an illegal war, and the fact that it worked doesn’t justify that fact that he acted improperly.
It’s a good thing that Gaddafi is dead, it’s an end he deserved years ago when he authorized the bombing of a Berlin disco in order to kill American soldiers. He deserved it when he authorized the murder of the hundreds of innocent civilians on Pan Am Flight 103. He deserved it for the decades in which his family stole the wealth of his country while the people lived in poverty. From the video and pictures that have come to light in the past 24 hours, it appears that he received the fate of Benito Mussolini and Nicolae Ceausescu, and he deserved that as well.
All of that is different, however, from the question of whether or not the President of the United States acted properly when he committed American military force to Libya in March. The answer to that question was no in March, it was no in August, and it is no today.